back to article UK.gov flings £95m at public sector superfast broadband rollouts

The UK's Ministry of Fun is still trying to give away piles of cash to companies tempted to install superfast broadband, with £95m up for grabs from last autumn's commitment to splurge £195m. The third round of the Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) Challenge Fund giveaway was rolled out today, aimed at enabling "gigabit capable …

  1. J J Carter Silver badge
    Boffin

    Shome mishtake surely?

    BEEELIONS!

  2. frank ly Silver badge

    As a matter of interest

    What does £95m get you nowdays? Is it a small rural town fibred/cabled up to every home with suitable connection to a national backbone connection? Better or worse than that?

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: As a matter of interest

      Probably a load of people to investigate if something is worth something, by the time they find out its not all the money is already gobbled up.

  3. steelpillow Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Yeah, right

    I live about a mile and a half (2.5 km) from a fibre cabinet, along with about a dozen other homes scattered nearby and another dozen along the route. There are hundreds if not thousands of patches in similar situations scattered across the county.

    No government pocket money is going to bring superfast to all us "hard-to-profit from-reach" areas. We need legislation to force telcos to deliver at a fixed price.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yeah, right

      @"We need legislation to force telcos to deliver at a fixed price."

      No we need the infrastructure returned, as tax payers we have paid for it over and again and the money has gone instead to the pockets of the new shareholders and a fraction of the improvement paid for has actually occured.

      Put Openreach back in our hands and see your taxes drop since we can finally remove BT's hand from our pocket and any money spent on improving the infrastructuer instead be diverted to the vultures

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Yeah, right

      It time to admit the privatizing services is not working for the consumers (although it's working very well for the CEOs) - let's go back to public ownership - we're paying for it after all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yeah, right

        Can you actually remember what it was like when the industry was last in public hands? If you think investment in network infrastructure is bad now, think back to those days when it was under the dead hand of the Treasury: party lines, 6 months wait to get a phone connected, and a choice of either a grey rotary dial or cream push-button receiver.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yeah, right

          @"Can you actually remember what it was like when the industry was last in public hands"

          Yes I can remember how things used to be in the UK before the countries assets were given away.

          If you were actually there yourself and are not just spreading the usual Tory propaganda then clearly you had an unrepresentional impression of the services that were later privatised without improving service. Certainly if you look at BT as an example they didnt give it away until completing the tax payer funded conversion to digital, not forgetting all the other privisated industries where they continued to dip in to tax payer funds for yet more hand outs. The same party leader also gave away assets that the government didn't own such as the TSB, so do not try to tell me things were above board or for my benefit, they had to destroy the justice system in the process to accomplish their goals.

          I have also watched as the loss of tax revenue since privisation has resulted in the taxes of everyone in the UK, except some of the ones who helped in the theft, to increase over and again. So whilst you offer me choice in handsets as justification, I see it as being paid for by people starving in the street, something that the UK had though relegated to the dark days before enlightenment.

          1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

            Re: Yeah, right

            unrepresentional impression of the services that were later privatised without improving service

            You are wrong there. Things might not have improved immediately, but they certainly have improved - a lot. I remember when we were only allowed a party line, when the only phones we could use were those allowed (sold or rented) by the Post Office, when it could take "quite a while" to get a new line installed.

            Things might not be perfect now, but when was the last time you heard of a party line being installed ? Who would now accept only being allowed to use a very limited range of BT supplied phones ? And typical install times these days are measured in days, not months.

            IMO a similar thing with the railways. They are clearly far from perfect (we're in an area served by Northern Rail - 'nuff said !), but compared to the old British Rail days it's a vast improvement.

            Yes, both of these may have been sold off cheaply, can't comment on that as I don't know enough about the economic arguments. But I dispute any suggestion that in both these cases, the overall result hasn't been a significantly better service.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Yeah, right

              @"I remember when we were only allowed a party line" and when the technology became cheap as chips then some of it was passed on to the consumer at a premium.

              The door opening to non-BT equipment being connected to the BT network was due to European legislation rather than the good nature of the new owners of BT.

              Railways as an industry have only made a profit where they can choose their routes so show me the railway company that makes a profit where they have to provide a complete national service and I will say you forgot to include the government subsidies. I would disagree with your statement that things have improved in any manner beyond at best the cosmetic, i.e. glitter to hide the reality that the railways are IMHO nolonger safe, reliable or value for money.

              As to privasion the state assets were typically given away rather than sold for a fraction of their value, taking railways again where BR owned properties in every city that were sold off for more than the government collected on the sale of BR.

            2. thisisnotthe......your lookingfor

              Re: Yeah, right

              Sorry! Openreach needs to renationalised or not for profit... Back in June 2015, took BT / Open Reach 110 Days to get a line installed, another 40 days for ADSL to get installed, then cut line off by mistake, then crossed line, another week to fix's, then another week for ADSL to be reconnected, and then 2 month's later give our line to some else from the cabinet. BTW main exchange is less than 1 mile away and cab is 1.2 km away, now finally on Fibre 12 Mbps 2.1 Mbps on a good day. Price quoted to be connected to FTTP on Demand in excess of £10500, discount of £750 other homes to sign up.

    3. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Yeah, right

      @ steelpillow: We need legislation to force telcos to deliver at a fixed price.

      I think you may be confusing "at a fixed price" with "cheaply".

      At the risk of stating the obvious they do not mean the same thing.

  4. -dp-

    Um, actually, thanks!

    Well, I run a very small company that requires fast internet upload, thanks to this scheme(I guess phase 2) I managed to get the installation fee paid (for some reason we need to pay the VAT, which we get back anyway - I guess it gives someone a job) for virgin fiber. 100mbit full duplex - beats the 6mbit upload I get from my BT line (of a semi-promised 18mbit). So thanks:)

    Just another three months until it will be installed though - if we're lucky...but still a positive as otherwise we would not have been able to pay for the 3k install fee to dig up them roads:)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Um, actually, thanks!

      @-dp-

      I agree it is nice that you benefitted from the taxpayers bung thrown to the telcom providers but since your benefit was incidental to the intention and then can guaranty that later on you will be paying the money back with interest.

      Now if they had instead put a cap on the telecoms unreasonable charges then you would have had th e same benefit and would have ment that the bung could have been divert into something that would benefit everyone rather than the telcoms companies and a few genuine companies.

  5. Flak

    Bring on proper infrastructure competition

    This kind of stimulus is needed to encourage infrastructure competition and is evaluated on the total committed investment and value achieved by the infrastructure provider. Serving public sector sites itself is self-serving, but the sites connected and the resulting new spine routes bring cost effective fibre infrastructure closer to businesses and residents.

    Only as a consequence of this kind of investment and announcements by the likes of CityFibre (alone and with Vodafone), Gigaclear and Hyperoptic have other providers such as TalkTalk, Virginmedia and ultimately Openreach announced their own new or expanded fibre to the premises services.

    To me, the challenge for public sector bodies 'bidding' for LFFN projects is that of getting the procurement right in terms of specifying their needs and objectives correctly (i.e. not every depot or office needs fibre connectivity, but every large office and school does; a public sector body does not need unlit fibre, but Ethernet, MPLS and/or Internet connectivity), as well as getting commitments by their infrastructure partner to serve the community where infrastructure is deployed.

    Fibre investment is strategic in nature and needs to be treated and evaluated as such. As a consequence, the money spent should generate significant long term direct and second order benefits. I am convinced that it will in most cases and am happy that my tax contribution helps advance the UK's fibre infrastructure.

    Just in case anyone thinks this is an advertorial, it is not. I am not affiliated with any of the named companies above, but have had very close dealings with a couple of them in the not too distant past and have sat on the side of the infrastructure provider (carrier) and private sector service provider (customer) for many years. Competition drives better services and lower prices. Proper infrastructure competition is long overdue.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Bring on proper infrastructure competition

      >This kind of stimulus is needed to encourage infrastructure competition

      I would go further and suggest that the government has to throw money at the Alt-ISP/Telco marketplace, if it is to have a healthy Alt-ISP/Telco players who can compete against the majors such as BT.

  6. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    There isn't a natural market for infrastructure competition.

    We don't have two sets of water pipes, we don't have two sets of sewer pipes*, we don't have two sets of electricity cables, we don't have two sets of roads**, we don't have two sets of railway lines, and so on. Similarly it does not make sense to have two sets of phone/network cables - to do so would be a massive waste of investment.

    The difference is that water, sewerage, gas, lecky, roads are all provided as a "public good" while the phone system is a bit of a bastard hybrid of infrastructure for the public good and a private entity "competing" in a non-existent market. Your comment about BTOR only upgrading areas where there's public cash or competition fits with this.

    Of course, the problem here is simple - too many voices with differing opinions of what the minimum service should be, what it should cost, who should pay for it, and so on. A secondary problem is that it's the only one of those mentioned where massive technological changes are being made - roads haven't fundamentally changed in many decades and (apart from maintenance) the road outside out house is the same road that was built about 80 years ago when the houses were built.

    But like many simple problems, there isn't a simple answer ! Yeah we'd all like gigabit internet with no caps and no throttling. We'd all like it to cost very little. Getting agreement on what granny (the stereotypical low bandwidth customer) needs to pay, and what we (as the stereotypical bandwidth hogs) need to pay, and what we get for that, it always going to be "somewhat difficult". You only need to see the number of people complaining that they should pay less if their "up to" isn't the max speed - while all the time they can have a guaranteed minimum speed if they buy a more expensive connection - to see how many people fail to understand that what we get now is actually not bad value and "speed costs".

    A great many, probably most if what I read is correct, would love to have the choice and value that we have here in the UK. Most of them effectively have a monopoly provider charging what they know they can get away with as a monopoly provider.

    * Not counting those areas with a two pipe system (one for foul water, another for surface water) which is a different thing altogether.

    ** Yes we have toll roads, but they are very limited in scope.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ SImon Hobson

      I was with you up to the point where you started appologising for the gouging of the telecom monoply, outside of cities there is zero choice and the price to the customer is the maximium they can get and still profit from BTinternet as well as openreach.

      We agree that in terms of efficency that doubling up on cabling is counter productive however unless the infrastructure paid for by the state is returned to the state then how else can you get around the monopoly that BT hold in the UK. The cable companies didn't pay the massive cost required to run their own systems for fun it was because it was cheaper then paying BT to carry the content for them. My second point on doubling up is that efficency is not the only consideration, redundancy can also provide for fail resistance were it not the case that BT control the connections between the cable company areas and out to the wide web.

      Thus BT are able to tax everyone who needs internet access and whilst that continues then their can be no competition nor push towards reducing customer costs since every provider is paying BT at some point and their prices have traditionally been whatever they liked.

      The only way out of this situation is for Openreach and all its infrastructure to be completely removed from BT and returned to the people who paid for it, anything else is merely cosmetic as it does nothing to remove their monopoly on UK communicatons

      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: @ SImon Hobson

        I was with you up to the point where you started appologising for the gouging of the telecom monoply, outside of cities there is zero choice and the price to the customer is the maximium they can get and still profit from BTinternet as well as openreach.

        Where was I apologising for it ?

        Also, you do realise that compared to many markets, in the UK we do have a relatively highly competitive market even in the sticks - as in you can go and get an internet connection from many providers who will compete on factors such as speed, actual throughput, reliability, customer service, etc. Yes, they will all be reselling BTOR connections - but you don't seem to realise that these connections are NOT "as much as they can get away with". The wholesale prices are set by the regulator, not BTOR - we can argue as to whether the rates set are the right ones, but they are not set by BT or BTOR, and they have been coming down over the years.

        Like I say, while in some places they get better connections for much less - you only have to read the articles about the US market to see the difference. Over there you find users who really do face buying from a monopoly, with no regulated prices, and who really can charge as much as they can get away with. And more importantly, impose whatever restrictions they can get away with (like actively throttling Netflix to benefit their own streaming services) - there's a reason the cable industry was so against neutrality rules !

        So I repeat. Yes I'd love to get (symmetric) gigabit over fibre and get it for less than I pay now. But knowing what we used to pay at work for direct fibre connections (some of them NOT involving BT anywhere) I reckon that the "up to" 80/20 (actually about 50/16 IIRC) FTTC connection I do get is not bad value.

  7. ENS
    Black Helicopters

    The Clue is in the name: Local FULL FIBRE Networks is Ultra- or Hyper- Not 'superfast'

    Full Fibre is going to provide at least 1Gbps capable solution. It may be sold as a 100Mbps solution, but it's either Ultrafast or Hyperfast.

    Superfast is 10Mbps wet piece of string in BTORs books, 24Mbps in DCMS terms.

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